Local settler history

Bush and Farming

In 1839, a flood of European settlers began arriving in the Kaipara. They felled and milled the giant kauri trees which as hard wood was much sought after for boat building. Despite the perilous bar at the harbour entrance, the Kaipara became a busy timber port from the 1860s, shipping thousands of tonnes of kauri timber and gum.


Giant kauri trees were considered by Māori to be the kings of New Zealand’s forest, some were up to 3m diameter, and the straight-grained wood was prized by Europeans as spars for sailing ships. Kauri also became popular for furniture, boat building & construction and was even being sent as far as California for the gold-rush. See Matakohe Museum for more detail.

Jane Mander’s Story of a New Zealand River (1920) is based around this part of the Kaipara.  Jane Mander, daughter of a miller, spent some of her childhood in the Kaipara and in this novel she describes "towering arrogantly above all else stood groups of kauri, whose great grey trunks shot up without a knot or branch and whose colossal heads, swelling up into the sky, made a cipher of every tree near”. 


Many early settlers complained about the deafening noise of birds who once filled these predator-free forests but as the Kauri were felled, the land fell silent. The giant kauri are now long gone and as farmland the green rolling hills drop down peninsulas towards the mangroves and the harbour is filled with oyster barges, fishing boats and pleasure launches.



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